In the summer of 2009 I took a trip to Israel which would forever change my views and feelings towards Judaism. For a month I toured Israel and experienced a foreign country for the first time in the short 16 years of my life. I had the most amazing time hiking, volunteering and learning about the Israeli and Jewish culture. The trip and it's influence on my life will be a part of me forever.
Prior to the trip I had never been interested in my Jewish background. Even after 8 years of Jewish school, I was confused about religion. But a simple event changed this viewpoint. One Tuesday morning I visited the Western Wall the holiest of all Jewish places. As I neared the wall and heard chants of hundreds of religious individuals, I began to feel a close connection with God. I prayed and felt as though my Hebrew prayers were being heard. From this point forward, my religious viewpoint shifted dramatically.
By reconnecting with Judaism, I have become a better person and as a result have seen a dramatic change in my views of morality. It has changed my life so dramatically. As an active member of my Jewish Community I learn how to treat others with respect and how I would like to be treated.
More importantly, however, is the actual trip. From the moment our group landed in Israel there was instant homey feeling. Day 1 we peered out off a cliff into the neighborhoods of Israel, and a chill went through my spine as I had a sudden reconnection with my lost religion. Day 2 we toured the streets of Jerusalem, and I could not help but smile as we passed by the merchants and the small food shops. You never understand a sense of community until you travel to Israel and see the connection that everyone shares. I loved the fact that even though there is constant danger everyone has a feeling of responsibility to each other and each other’s safety. Day 3 we hopped on a bus and traveled to Tel Aviv, my favorite city in the world. Take a deep breath and imagine the liveliest city that you can think of, with clubs, boardwalks, bars and beaches. Most likely there aren’t a few that come to mind, but Tel Aviv encompasses all of these amazing features and much more. Day 4 we went to the beach in Israel and surfed. I had the most amazing time in those 6 foot waves riding with my friends and other local Israelis. Everyone was so friendly and outgoing and willing to help me (considering I only spoke English). Day 5 was yet again, another bus ride to a city 5 hours south, Ailat. We awoke at 5am to do a sunrise hike through some rigorous mountains but at the end of the journey we could see Egypt to the South and Saudi Arabia to the East. It was an amazing feeling. Days 6-20 we traveled more and stayed with some local Israelis for 10 days. But days 21 through 25 we trained with the IDF and this was the event that changed me most.
We learned how to shoot guns, put on bulletproof armor, reload ammunition and work with other members of the IDF. These 5 days taught me respect, perseverance and the importance of teamwork. This is what helped me mature into the person I am today. My trip to Israel changed my life and I will always remember it. Traveling the world and learning more about different cultures and myself is something I look forward to in the future
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